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What, art thou in a [prophetic] raving; or dust thou play upon me designedly, by uttering obscurities? 0 son of Laertes, whatever I shall say will come to pass, or it will not:1 for the great Apollo gives me the power to divine. Then, if it is proper, relate what that tale means.

At that time when the youth dreaded by the Parthians, an offspring derived from the noble Aeneas, shall be mighty by land and sea; the tall daughter of Nasica, averse to pay the sum total of his debt, shall wed the stout Coranus. Then the son-in-law shall proceed thus: he shall deliver his will to his father-in-law, and entreat him to read it; Nasica will at length receive it, after it has been several times refused, and silently peruse it; and will find no other legacy left to him and his, except leave to lament.

To these [directions I have already given], I subjoin the [following]: if haply a cunning woman or a freedman have the management of an old driveler, join with them as an associate: praise them, that you may be praised in your absence. This too is of service; but to storm [the capital] itself excels this method by far. Shall he, a dotard, scribble wretched verses? Applaud them. Shall he be given to pleasure? Take care [you do not suffer him] to ask you: of your own accord complaisantly deliver up your Penelope to him, as preferable [to yourself]. What-do you think so sober and so chaste a woman can be brought over, whom [so many] wooers could not divert from the right course? Because, forsooth, a parcel of young fellows came,2 who were too parsimonious to give a great price, nor so much desirous of an amorous intercourse, as of the kitchen. So far your Penelope is a good woman: who, had she once tasted of one old [doting gallant], and shared with you the profit, like a hound, will never be frighted away from the reeking skin [of the new-killed game].

What I am going to tell you happened when I was an old man. A wicked hag at Thebes was, according to her will, carried forth3 in this manner: her heir bore her corpse, anointed with a large quantity of oil, upon his naked shoulders; with the intent that, if possible, she might escape from him even when dead: because, I imagine, he had pressed upon her too much when living. Be cautious in your addresses: neither be wanting in your pains, nor immoderately exuberant. By garrulity you will offend the splenetic and morose. You must not, however, be too silent. Be Davus in the play; and stand with your head on one side, much like one who is in great awe. Attack him with complaisance: if the air freshens, advise him carefully to cover up his precious head: disengage him from the crowd by opposing your shoulders to it: closely attach your ear to him, if chatty. Is he immoderately fond of being praised? Pay him home, till he shall cry out, with his hands lifted up to heaven, "Enough:" and puff up the swelling bladder with tumid speeches. When he shall have [at last] released you from your long servitude and anxiety; and being certainly awake, you shall hear [this article in his will]? "Let Ulysses be heir to one fourth of my estate:" "is then my companion Damas now no more? Where shall I find one so brave and so faithful?" Throw out something of this kind] every now and then: and if you can a little, weep for him. It is fit to disguise your countenance, which [otherwise] would betray your joy. As for the monument, which is left to your own discretion, erect it without meanness. The neighborhood will commend the funeral handsomely performed. If haply any of your co-heirs, being advanced in years, should have a dangerous cough; whether he has a mind to be a purchaser of a farm or a house out of your share, tell him, you will [come to any terms he shall propose, and] make it over to him gladly for a trifling sum.4 But the imperious Proserpine drags me hence. Live, and prosper.

1Quidquid dicam, aut erit, aut non. It is well disputed, whether these words be spoken in jest by Tiresias, to rally the monarch who consults him, or whether he too carelessly discovers his real opinion of his art. There is an acknowledged ambiguity and double meaning in his expression, under which, perhaps, the poet disguises his own sentiments of the skill of these diviners, and the frequent ambiguity of their answers.

2 Although Tiresias gives Ulysses no better reason for his wife's virtue than the avarice of her lovers, yet the monarch hears him patiently, since even this reason proves her sufficiently virtuous. Our poet probably took the hint of this passage from homer, who makes Penelope reproach her wooers with their want of generosity, and never having made her any presents. The next line is almost a translation from the Odyssey.

3Elata.” Carried out to the funeral pile. Ter. Andr. i.Effertur, Imus.

4Nummo addicere. When a counterfeit sale was made of any thing left by will, the forms of law were to be observed. The buyer and seller went to a public officer called Libripens, or keeper of the scales; and the purchaser, in the presence of witnesses, put a piece of money into the scales, which the seller took out, and the sale was afterward deemed legal. Nummo addicere means here "to sell for nothing."

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    • E. T. Merrill, Commentary on Catullus, 68b
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